Creepy crawlies vital to environmental cycles | Sowin' the trowel

This Northwest native is finally creeped out by creepy crawlies.

For the first time in weeks, I’ve been able to open my mailbox without first using a whisk broom to remove the sheet of caterpillars draped across it every morning.

The pots of herbs on my deck are no longer ringed with circling insects, there are no more gold, white and brown “doilies” across the tops of my lawn chairs, and the critters that have crawled up my siding have finally given up and died.

Every day, even after I hosed down the outside of my house, they’d reappear in epic numbers as if by magic.

No, this wasn’t good magic, the kind that got Dorothy and Toto back to Auntie Em in Kansas or helped Harry Potter zap Lord Voldemort to kingdom come.

No, this was the kind of magic that produced a never-ending supply of undulating, unremitting, unrelenting, unceasing and interminable moth larvae as if from the mouth of the Cornucopia of Doom.

Bad year for tent caterpillars? I’m surprised some wag hasn’t replaced the picture of the gigantic, menacing wave on the tsunami warning signs strategically placed throughout the island with a photo of one of these little demons.

Because my husband was out of town during the entire deluge, I e-mailed him a few photos. There was a shot of the carpet of critters a foot wide circling the foundation of our home.

Handfuls of the little beasties draped over the newel caps on the front porch railing. Scads of vermin making themselves at home on the leaves of every bedding plant, dotting every blade of grass in the yard and sunning themselves on the tops of the tires on my van.

“Are they only bad at our house?” my husband asked, as if he were the pharaoh of Egypt and this was a plague targeting him alone. Biblical in proportion it might have been, but we were all suffering together from this particular catastrophe, like passengers huddled together along the railing of the listing Titanic.

Every journey out of doors required a broad brimmed hat, especially if I actually dared to venture beneath any one of the few alders dotting the margins of my property. It just so happens my compost pile and worm bins are located beneath an alder.

If I weren’t a died-in-the-wool recycler, I might have stayed inside and sent a box of chocolates and a note of apology to Janet Hall, our county extension’s Waste Wise Program Coordinator.

But venture out; I did, and got to hear the delightful pitter-patter of caterpillar scat — and plenty of caterpillars as well — filtering down from the branches above.

Then back into the house, where my daughter would act like a kind of entomological TSA agent and examine me back, front and sideways for stowaways. Even a quick trip from the car to the front porch left me with hitchhikers on my shoes and pant legs.

Despite all this drama, I didn’t use insecticides and let it run its wiggly course. And I don’t plan on spraying insecticide hither and yon next year either.

This is my choice, but the reason is simple. I remind myself there are at least two parasitic wasps that can do my dirty work for me. One attacks the eggs, the other feeds on the caterpillars themselves.

The next time you spray insecticide that kills any and all insects, stop and ask yourself this:  where were those wasps this year?


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